Making Meanings with Friends
William K. Rawlins
In 1994, Cindy Marshall, a scholar with whom I work, returned home to Maine for the summer. We had talked several times about my interest in studying recordings of friends actually talking together, an approach to understanding friendships that, ironically, as a communication scholar I had only minimally attempted for professional research purposes. She was kind enough to speak with several people in Maine who might be interested in tape recording some of their time spent talking with a close friend. She informed these persons that their words would be closely scrutinized and written about by me, a professor with whom Cindy worked and an authority on friendship. Many of them were surprised to learn that scholars actually were studying how friends communicate with each other but were eager to participate in the project. The discourse of one pair of these amenable participants, Karen and Christine, provides the primary basis for my discussion. There was no interview protocol or schedule of questions guiding their interaction other than the fact that they knew I was interested in their friendship; their talk went where they took it during their shared vivid present. Everything I say about these friends I have gleaned from listening to them talk with each other and studying their transcribed words.
By their own reckoning early in the conversation, Karen and Christine have been friends for some "thirty years and counting." One late summer day, it rained in Maine, and Karen took the afternoon off from her job at a